Places to visit along the canal
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Thu Feb 22, 2024 at 10:34am


Places to visit along the canal

There are a few places to visit up and down our canal system where you can learn the history of how the canal system started - from being a necessary roadway for deliveries and now more as a place to live or enjoy a holiday.

One of the places to visit is Foxton Locks on the Leicester arm of the Grand Union Canal.

Foxton is a historical Grade II listed site and is the longest and steepest flight on the canals. It has thirty four acres of green spaces and plenty of wildlife, including many species of birds. You can walk up and down the locks, take a picnic to enjoy, and even follow it with a boat trip. There are also guided walks, themed activities and events during the warmer months.

There are the remains of a unique inclined Victorian Boat Lift which is definitely worth a look. The lift was originally commissioned to accommodate wider beam boats to run alongside the flight of ten locks.

Narrowboats and wider working barges could be lifted up and down the 75ft plane in 12 minutes compared to the 45 minutes using the standard locks. It was a success to begin with for about 10 years, but because Watford Gap was never widened the cost of running outweighed its use.

It had to have a 25-horsepower steam engine running all the time with a permanent workforce of 3-4 to operate. Then the increasing cost of replacing the cables and just maintaining it became just too expensive. The lift closed to traffic and was decomissioned in 1911.


To learn more about the history of this place the Foxton Locks Museum is in the former boiler house where the steam engine was placed. It is open at weekends all year round and costs just £4 per adult to visit at the time of writing

Nowadays this is a place for all the family to visit, either by road or by boat. As a non-boat user there are plenty of rest facilities and carparks. For all visitors, the site has two pubs, two cafes, a book shop and a museum as previously mentioned. There is a shop below bottom lock for gifts. It also has a small chandlery for your boating needs, groceries and gas. 

Volunteers manage the flight, and you must book with the lockkeepers for passage. For opening times check the website or by phone on 0116 2793686. If you cannot find anyone then go to Top Lock Cottage. There can be a substantial wait, maybe a few hours, to go through the locks, but there is plenty to see and do around the site.

Foxton Locks have moorings available either 1, 2, and 7 days and you need to check the signs on the towpath to see where these apply. A copy of the Mooring Zones can be found in the link below for more information. The visitor moorings are free, but if you overstay then there will be a daily charge.

Foxton has good facilities which include a launderette and shower next to Bridge 61 at bottom lock. Also refuse and Elsan at bottom car park. The nearest pump out is at Debdale Wharf 30 minutes up the Leicester arm. Various water points are located at top and bottom locks.

Foxton Lock moorings map here

We hope you have enjoyed this short insight to this historical site, which is a brilliant day out for all generations to enjoy.